At the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis last week, Mike Ludlow realized the Wichita State Shockers probably would return to the same arena for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
So he bought tickets to the tournament on a website.
The family-practice physician from Wichita bought four tickets in the lower bowl of the Scottrade Center on StubHub.com for $390 each for all sessions.
He suspected that the University of Kansas and Kansas State University teams had a chance of ending up at the same site.
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“If so, those are priceless tickets, so I’m pretty excited to have them,” Ludlow said.
Speculation has it that the Wichita State men’s basketball team, with a 34-0 record, will be granted a No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region when the NCAA announces its tournament pairings at 5 p.m. Sunday on CBS. That could put the Shockers back in St. Louis, where they won the MVC Tournament last week. Those games would take place on Friday and March 23.
If that’s where the Shockers wind up, Ludlow and others who took a leap of faith and bought tickets early will be well rewarded. Others who want to attend will have to scramble to land tickets from the Scottrade Center’s website, the NCAA’s website or sites like StubHub.com.
Tickets were available but dwindling on all those sites Saturday. The Scottrade Center seats slightly more than 19,000 people. With basketball-crazed fans from the Kansas schools and other teams heading that way, any remaining seats are likely to be claimed quickly after the tournament field is announced.
Tickets for Shocker games in St. Louis would not be available from Wichita State. Russell Wilkins, assistant athletic director for ticket operations at Wichita State, said the school is allocated only 400 tickets by the NCAA, and they already have been claimed.
The school distributes them on a priority point system based on donations to the Shocker Athletic Scholarship Organization, contributions toward other athletic projects at WSU and campus giving, he said. The allotment also has to cover coaches, players and their guests.
“The NCAA ties our hands. They do that for protection for themselves. They want to make sure every site’s full. They are a business,” Wilkins said.
Jack Watkins, associate commissioner for the Missouri Valley Conference, which is hosting the event in St. Louis for the NCAA, said the most direct way to get tickets is on the website ncaa.com/mbbtickets.
As of Saturday, only a limited number of VIP tickets remained on that site, and they ranged from $679 to $1,304. VIP tickets include access to exclusive parties at the arena.
WSU’s secondary outlet is StubHub.com, where fans sell tickets to each other. As of Saturday, StubHub had 966 tickets available for all the sessions in the Scottrade Center, ranging from $259 to $1,529. More than 1,700 were available for single-session tickets Friday and March 23. Tickets for Friday’s noon session ranged from $69 to $457, while the 6 p.m. session prices ranged from $89 to $570.
Tickets for sale on the Scottrade Center website, www.centerstlouis.com, another site for fans to swap tickets, ranged from $219 to $1,185 for all sessions. Tickets also were available for Friday and March 23 sessions.
Even if Wichita State is assigned to another site, fans who bought tickets for St. Louis are probably still going to be in luck.
“I think they have a pretty good chance, if they needed to, of unloading their tickets,” Wilkins said. “I think one of the Kansas teams is going to be there.”
Ludlow, a Newman University graduate and supporter, also is a KU fan and would still attend the St. Louis event if the Shockers play elsewhere. But Wichita State is the team he wants to see.
“I love watching team basketball,” Ludlow said. “When they play a team-oriented game, it’s just very exciting to watch. Those kids are all on the same page, and there doesn’t seem to be an ego on the team. They’re just fun to watch.”
Aaron Becker, another Shocker fan, attended the MVC Tournament last week and plans to go back to St. Louis this week no matter who’s there, thanks to the foresight of his mother.
Michelle Becker, a former basketball player at Friends University and president of Profit Builders in Wichita, is a fan of WSU and KU. She bought 24 tickets for the NCAA Tournament in St. Louis a couple of months ago, he said.
The tickets are for seats in the first three rows of the upper level, and she paid $250 per ticket for all sessions, Aaron Becker said. Nearly all have been sold to friends and family.
“We’ll definitely go,” said Aaron Becker, who works in IT support for Profit Builders. “We’re a big basketball family. We like watching games regardless of who’s playing. But the big push was the fact the Shockers could be there.”
During the MVC Tournament, Aaron Becker had a chance to check out his seats for the NCAA Tournament.
“They’re OK,” he said. “They’re pretty high up. But they’re on the lower part of the upper level. You can see the whole game.”
Aaron Becker also is excited by the possibility that KU could join the Shockers in St. Louis.
“It could be an exciting venue,” said Jim Marchiony, associate athletic director at KU.
Marchiony said KU makes its NCAA-allotted tickets, usually about 750, available on a priority basis to members of the school’s Williams Education Fund, which provides athletic scholarships.
But even if Jayhawk fans can’t get tickets from the school, many are expected in St. Louis if the team is sent there. Marchiony wouldn’t speculate how many.
“A lot of them get tickets through the arena or from friends at other schools,” he said. “There’s all kinds of ways to get tickets, so there’s no way of knowing how many fans of one school are in the building.”
Last week, the Scottrade Center resembled Wichita State’s Koch Arena as 8,000 Shocker fans wearing black and yellow filled the seats by the final day of the MVC Tournament.
With ticket availability more restricted for the NCAA Tournament, there wouldn’t be that many WSU fans in the Scottrade stands this week. But there still could be plenty of black and yellow outfits in St. Louis.
Debbie Kennedy, the president of the Wichita Alumni Association, which organizes travel and activities for fans, said WSU plans to take four buses, each seating 48 passengers, to St. Louis and is arranging a charter flight that could seat 142 people.
One bus already is full, and 73 people have committed to the flight, she said.
WSU took seven buses to the MVC Tournament, five more than it normally takes to that tournament, Kennedy said.
Fewer buses are planned for the NCAA Tournament because the university will be on spring break this week, she said.
Also, she said, “I think the anxiety of not being able to get tickets is holding some people back. Or they’re waiting until after Selection Sunday.”